Showing posts with label Crazes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Crazes. Show all posts

Thursday, December 31, 2009

In the Meantime, Please Enjoy this Classic Post: Jock Jams

Repost Disclaimer: Children of the Nineties is, weather permitting, in transit to much-awaited New Year's Eve celebrations. In the meantime, please enjoy a pre-scheduled classic CotN repost from earlier this year. As I only had three or four readers at the time, it's probably (okay, almost definitely) new to you.

Jock Jams

It only occurs to me now that the Jock Jams music series was in some way related to athletics in a "pump-you-up" sort of way. We all just accepted that the series was called "Jock Jams;" for years I thought it was a legitimate category of music. There was punk, top 40, rock, grunge, adult alternative, and Jock Jams.

Jock Jams was certainly unrelenting in its commitment to providing a singular type of music. Tack listings featured such non-sensically titled classics as "Whoomp! There it is!" "Boom, Boom, Boom" "Da' Dip" and "Tubthumping." Obviously, using words found in the dictionary was not a requirement for admission to Jock Jams stardom. If you could verbalize some sort of grunting sound and write a song about it, you were in. Pump-up themes were also prevalent and pervasive. The first volume featured a staggering 3 songs with the phrase "pump it up!" in their titles. There was no question this franchise was churning out upbeat tunes, as evidenced by a whopping 11 uses of the word "up" in song titles alone in the five Jock Jams albums.

These compliation CDs featured more than just music, though it was their main jock-inspiring focus. Jock Jams also included some spoken and/or chanted tracks full of strangely taunting remarks, often with vengeful undertones. These short tracks were cleverly faded into the next song, with little or no delay between tracks. Assumedly, this was to keep the jocks jamming uninterruptedly. There's nothing a jamming jock despises more than a two second pause between tracks. What sort of a bench press soundtrack would this be if lifters were forced to endure a one-second silence? How would they possibly build up the motivation to increase their muscular capacity if involuntarily subjected to quietude? How, I ask you?

Although the album covers declared the compilations to be presented by the distinctly athletic ESPN, in reality, these supposed "jock" jams were directed more at a teenybopper slash dance club crowd than their eponymous sportsmen demographic. In this sense, the spoken tracks were possibly misdirected with their vindictive themes. A bunch of 12-year olds chanting, "Hey, hey, you! Get out of our way because today is the day we will put you away!" is a tad more disconcerting and less appropriate than say, a football team delivering the same unsportmanlike message. Regardless of their out-of-placedness among the actual consumers, the spoken tracks had a certain charm to them that uniquely characterized the albums.

The most recognizable was of course the classic intro to the original Jock Jams (volume one) was the infamous boxing announcer Michael Buffer's trademarked phrase, "Let's get ready to ruuuuuumble!" Listeners were indeed, ready to rumble, possibly not in a punch-you-out fashion but at the very least in a 90s dance-club rump-shaking manner.

Jock Jams actually had listed tracks attributed to their very own Jock Jams cheerleaders, presumably those pictured on their various album covers. Though it was never made clear exactly what the prerequisites for Jock Jam cheerleaderdom were, we can only assume that the audition process required a yelling/spelling combo exam.

"Alright girls, all 28 of you have passed the shouting test, great work. Unfortunately, only 3 of you passed the spelling portion of the tryout. For those of you who spelled 'action' a-c-k-s-h-u-n, better luck next year trying out for volume 3 when we'll be asking you to incorrectly spell the word 'rowdy' with an 'i-e'." (Note: there is indeed a track on Jock Jams Volume 3 entitled "R.O.W.D.I.E". Check out the track listing for yourself if you have any remaining incredulity about the ridiculousness of these anthologies.)

These CDs included many of our favorite standard 90s upbeat tracks like the Macarena and the Space Jam theme, but also had some odd remixes thrown in for good measure. I'd been meaning to remix the Mexican Hat Dance for awhile now, but the good people at Jock Jams beat me to it. I also played around with the idea of turning "If You're Happy and You Know It" into a rockin' club jam, but again Jock Jams had clearer foresight than I. Did I mention I've always loved when they play the Chicken Dance at classy church-basement, come on, Jock Jams! You've got to be kidding me. That too? What won't you remix? It's obviously back to the drawing board for me.

The 1990s were famous for megamixing everything. We could never be satisfied with just mixing. Even supermixing seemed too tame for our extreme 90s music tastes. No, it was was megamix or nothing. Megamixing was the fine-tuned art of taking approximately one line from every song, in this case from a single compilation album, and mixing them into a something that even the most attention-deficit nineties child could attend to.

"We've tried mixing it...but could we megamix it? Our demographic prefers to listen to their favorite songs in snippets, people!"

I'll admit it is catchy. While the Jock Jams franchise was not creative by any means, you have to admire them for holding out all these years with their initial premise. The CDs were wildly popular and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. No 6th grade basketball tournament would be complete without a pre-game layup show set to some variation of the megamix. Jocks or not, children of the 90s reveled in the eardrum-shattering flavor of these CDs.

So go ahead, children of the 90s. Pop a Jock Jams the boombox, crack open a bottle of Surge, zip up that Starter Jacket, and get ready to rumble.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Glamour Shots

Note: I don't actually know any of the lucky stars of these Glamour Shots portraits, we were simply introduced through our mutual friend Google Images. If any of them are of you, well, then...I'm sorry. On so many levels.

It's always been a dream of mine to shell out fifty bucks for some underpaid mall clerk with three weeks beauty school experience to JonBenet Ramsey-ify me for photographic posterity. Call me sentimental, but I just can't think of any way I'd rather be remembered than wearing a feather boa, my wash-out perm blowing in the wind machine-generated breeze. In soft focus, of course.

In the 80s and 90s, Glamour Shots photography studio franchises were cropping up at malls across the country. Glamour Shots studios convinced us that all we needed to infuse a little glamor into our lives was a string of fake pearls, a cowboy hat, and a blurred camera lens, prompting women everywhere to whip out their faux leather checkbook wallets for a piece of the action. There was just something inexplicably irresistible about the opportunity to appear back-lit in an off the shoulder sequined gown.

The Glamour Shots experience was intended to make everyday average women feel like models at a photo shoot. For some clients this was more of a stretch than others, but our chipper mall stylists were more than up for the challenge. After a few hours in hair and makeup, anyone could look fabulous. Or at least that was the idea.

Unfortunately, this notion worked far better in theory than in practice. The studio's main clientele was made up of middle aged women, most of whom sought to take some non-racy but nevertheless boudoir-esque photos for their husbands. Glamour Shots took a distinctly one-size-fits-all approach to their model-style photo shoots, meaning their stylists were probably only trained in a single technique.

That must have been the case, as I'm not quite sure how else you could account for the sweeping uniformity of looks for Glamour Shots clients* nationwide. There were a few not-so-secret ingredients that formed the underpinnings of every Glamour Shots session throughout the decade, the most obvious of which was the enormous mall hair. It shouldn't have come as such a surprise considering the shoots did indeed take place within the confines of a mall environment, but I doubt any of these housewives went in asking for the Tiffany.

The next ingredient in our Glamour Shots recipe for alleged success was the ubiquitous presence of all things sparkly. Be it enormous earrings, a sequined jacket, or a bedazzled headpiece, each Glamour Shots studio followed the mantra of shiny equals universally flattering. It's a well known fact that not every woman is meant to wear a gold lame gown. When paired with oversized glasses and a portly figure, these dress-up implements could be more of a curse than the gift they'd claimed to be on the certificate in your Mother's Day card.

The final and most critical element of any Glamour Shot worth its weight in retouching equipment was the almighty signature pose. Aside from the usual hand-shelf-chin-support pose we saw at photography studios everywhere, we had some distinct poses that were pure GS through and through.

There were a few poses in particular that these studios were especially partial to, most often the over the shoulder smoldering gaze. Again, while this may have been a prime way to showcase the aesthetically pleasing attributes of an actual fashion model, it had a uniquely comical effect when applied to your grandmother.

The over-the-shoulder smolder

The head tilt was another popular choice, giving the subject a look somewhere between deep thought and mild confusion:

The Head Tilt

And of course, our classic "grab-part-of-your-shirt/feather boa" pose:

The Jacket Nabber

In the luckiest of client cases, you may have been subjected to all three, also known as the Triple Crown. Okay, I just made that up, but it would have been a totally apt descriptor in its time. I'm standing behind it. Actually, I'm crouching behind it in a three-quarter profile with a half head tilt, but same difference.

The holy grail of Glamour Shots posing: with our pose powers combined, who knows what we might unleash in this smirking housewife

As children, many of us begged tirelessly for our own opportunity at being shot glamorously, and many of our parents were wise enough to deny us this fleeting pleasure. The desire for these photos peaked right about at the same pubescent time as the height of adolescent awkwardness, meaning these photos would be a testament to our largest glasses and most prominent acne.

Especially in the midst of the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, it was considered less than good form to doll up your daughter in all the finery mall photography studios could muster, particularly if they involved a sparkly cowboy hat of any kind. Pageant moms may have embraced the opportunity with open arms, but these over done-up preteens were at best unsettling to the general public.

Cute kid, or future Enquirer cover? You decide.

For those parents who gave in to their teenage children's whinings for Glamour Shots, congratulations. Your scrapbook contains the ultimate blackmail tool against your child. Daughter forget your birthday? Time to take out that scanner and release these bejeweled cowboy hat-tipping beauties into the Facebook wild. There is probably nothing in the world more certain to humiliate them than an unwelcome trip down a softly focused memory lane paved with sequins and hot rollers.

To my loyal readers, I pose to you** the following challenge. If any of you (or your briefly glamorous family members) ever had Glamour Shots taken, I implore you to email them to Please, sacrifice yourself on the altar of shame and allow others to join in your humorous commiseration. I promise to give them the ultimate Children of the 90s mocking treatment and to open it up to reader votes for the best Glamor Shot. I might even throw in a prize. So get to it, children of the 90s. Track down those embarrassing mall studio photographs, throw 'em on the scanner, and let the fun begin.

*Now known as "victims"
**Get it? Pose?

Friday, October 30, 2009

90s Fitness: Exercise Fads and Ridiculous Infomercials

Riding the crest of 80s aerobic fitness trends, many entrepreneurial-minded exercise gurus took to the airwaves with the goal of convincing us to buy their complicated contraptions. Through the use of TV ads, particularly informercials, these buff business-minded bodybuilders managed to persuade us into believing that we could not live without these exercise appliances. Watching the near-immediate transformations of the testimonial hawkers on our screens, our resistance weakened and we felt increasingly compelled to rush to the nearest phone with the toll-free number and a valid credit card. In short, we were all looking for a quick fix and television ads had a unique way of making the process of getting fit seem simple and instantaneous.

Of course, getting fit is not simple or instantaneous, but we didn't know that yet. Watching these skilled salespeople describe the results possible with their product made us believe that this was indeed the fitness panacea we had been looking for. It rarely occurred to any of us that we might actually have to use the item in question. Based on the infomercials, it seemed enough to simply shell out the bills for it. It was almost as if we believed our act of exercise goodwill would immediately transform us from crumb-laden couch potatoes into tan, oiled, muscular wonders. That is to say, we were completely deluded.

So many of us fell under the spell of the fitness trends, it's no wonder many of these products made their endorsers a nice chunk of cash. Everyone's looking for that magic bullet (no infomercial pun intended*) to transform us from flab to fab, and somehow watching these 30 minute ads at 2 in the morning made these machines and videos seem like the wisest solution. As many of us were wee children during the rise and fall of these trends, we had the unique perspective of watching the infomercials, coveting the products, and having no means whatsoever to obtain them.

I don't know about you, but when I got a television in my own room it certainly didn't have cable on it. There are only so many programming options late at night, and most of them involve show-length commercials brimming with overzealous enthusiasm. Even as a kid, I was blown away by the seemingly incredible results these programs offered. If I had been 18 or older to order, I certainly would have done so. Until then, though, I'd have to settle for sitting back and enjoying the informercials.

Tony Little's Gazelle

Just when I was here thinking Richard Simmons was the king of excessive exercisical energy, Tony Little burst onto the infomercial scene gave Richard a run for his aerobics-earned money. To his credit, Little did have an adequately inspirational backstory to give him some credibility in pushing others to their physical limits. Little was a former bodybuilder who suffered a serious car crash, leaving him injured and subsequently overweight. Tired of wallowing in cheeto-tinted misery, he petitioned a small television to let him create his own personal trainer style fitness program. Not long after, he struck a deal with the Home Shopping Network and all seemed pretty peachy.

As his personal website objectively and not-at-all-awkwardly informs us, "Life couldn't have been better for the blond haired, lean, mean, energized, personal training machine." That is, until he suffered yet another car accident. Little did the whole overcoming adversity thing a second time around and came out with his signature Gazelle fitness equipment:

See? Even at 11 seconds, that clip manages to draw you in. Like a train wreck. Or car crash. Too soon? Sorry, Tony. I admire your work, I really do.

Tae Bo

Developed by Tae kwan do instructor Billy Blanks, Tae Bo combined martial arts and kickboxing to create an infomercial-driven phenomenon. In the 90s, you could catch one of Blanks's infomercials airing pretty much anytime. In 1999, they were airing 2000 times a day on cable. Now that's good exposure. And I'm not just talking about those spandex pants.

The infomercial gave us many compelling testimonials from regular people and celebrities alike, all of whom praised its "spirit" and "Truth". Selling at 60 bucks a pop, Blanks made a pretty penny of his kickboxing hybrid routine. People flooded local gyms to partake in new Tae Bo-inspired cardio kickboxing classes, and seemingly overnight a fitness fad was born. It makes sense, really. We get to punch and kick and let out aggression in the comfort of our own homes. What's not to like?

If you want to try it for yourself, here's a little 8 minute taste:

8 Minute Video series

Speaking of 8 minutes, the "8 minute" video series was a serious money-maker in the 90s, particularly its "8 Minute Abs" routine. The idea was that in just 8 minutes a day, you too could be as ripped and skimpy-pantsed as the instructor. Any rational person can tell you this is pretty much impossible if you're overweight in any way; sure, you may have rock-hard abs, but thousands of crunches won't do a thing about that beer belly.

The videos feature a cheery host, bland meandering music, and two seemingly mute demonstrators who smile with such conviction you've almost got to question their sobriety. The host constantly refers to his audience as, "gang", which I suppose is supposed to be encouraging and not indicative of any east side/west side distinction. Just to clarify.

The videos caught a bit of free publicity in There's Something About Mary, in a scene in which a lone hitchhiker details his plans to create a "7 Minute Abs" program and crush his overlong competition:


There are so many reasons to love this commercial. For one, that struggling sitter-upper in the No Pain, No Gain t shirt. Usually when I work out, I like to wear clothing emblazoned with slogans that represent my current fitness mindset. I've got to change at the gym every time I hop on a new machine.

Also, I find that doing concurrent ab exercises with a partner in tandem synchronized motion without speaking or looking at one another is usually the most effective method. And of course, we've got our requisite doctor testimonial claiming this thing is pelvically tilted in some miraculous way. That's it, I'm sold.

Buns of Steel

On the edge of the 80s aerobics craze, "Buns of Steel" gave us a means of filling out leotards or bike shorts respectively by gender. In the late 80s and early 90s, workout videos were becoming all the rage. Just think, you could get fit all from the comfort of your own home. Of course, many people overlooked the fact that you actually had to do the workout, but if you did it no doubt led to the betterment of your overall physique. At least that's what Cher told me in Clueless.

Suzanne Somers for Thighmaster

Ah, here we've got both our doctor testimonial and celebrity endorsement. Talk about your classic infomercial one-two punch. There is definitely a little something...inappropriate about it. Didn't your mother ever tell you to keep your legs closed? It's just a tad obscene. I can see why the infomercial was so popular, though.

The 90s fitness scene may have been slightly toned down from the over-the-top marketing of the 80s, but it had its own unique charm and appeal. There's a reason these items sold thousands of units worldwide. Rather than the effectiveness of the product, though, that reason was probably more about how easily swayed the public was by infomercials. Alright, I'm off to go cut up some shoes with my Ginsu knives. What? They're good knives.

*Okay, okay, a little infomercial pun intended

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen Empire

It may be difficult now to think of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen as anything other than socialite bag ladies, but back in the 90s they were amongst the most successful young entrepreneurial stars on the scene. Don't let their current air of homelessness fool you: these girls have been building their multimillion dollar empire brick by straight-to-video brick since they were old enough to legally appear onscreen. Love them or hate them, they built themselves as an incredibly successful brand. Yes, they've stamped their name on everything from shampoo to training bras, but something's got to keep these girls in poorly fitting oversized sweaters.

When the girls debuted in TGIF's Full House as infants, a crafty lawyer saw great potential in capturing and packaging their essence. Their manager Robert Thorne created Dualstar Entertainment and in a then-shocking move named the girls (at seven years apiece) as executive producers. Moguls don't come much mini-er than that. While most of their peers were mastering the monkey bars at recess, the Olsens were already overseeing a fast-growing empire. Not too shabby.

Tween programming was still mostly an untapped well in the early 90s, with most media producers focusing on capturing the attention of either children or teens with no middle ground. The twins' manager saw an opportunity for some serious tween-tapped revenue and capitalized it by building the girls into a tightly managed, well-defined product that sold well with young girls and parents alike. While they may have shaken their once-wholesome all-American image, their fame is hinged on the fact that they turned selling out into a legitimate business prospect:

Full House

The twins got their start on Full House when they were only 9 months old, making them celebrities practically since birth. The girls were hired to play a single character, Michelle Tanner, to comply with time limitations of child labor laws. Initially, producers tried to hide the fact that Michelle was played by two different actresses. When Mary Kate and Ashley soon began developing a fan base, however, they quickly changed their tune. These girls had star quality from a young age, as you can see from the following interview with them. Warning: if you're sensitive to adorableness, you may want to skip this one.

To Grandmother's House We Go/Double, Double, Toil and Trouble/How the West was Fun

During their time on Full House, Mary Kate and Ashley expanded their young fan base by starring in a slew of children's made-for-TV movies. This cheesy fare went over well with young audiences and their overprotective parents, further skyrocketing the twins to atmospheric fame.

Our First Video

In 1993, the twin's manager saw great potential in the straight-to-video market, expanding the twins' brand to include children's videos with tie-in musical numbers. I watched this VHS so many times that the tape began to unravel, leaving me inconsolable. I just wanted to watch "I am the Cute One" and "Nobody Tells the President What to Do" on repeat approximately twenty thousand times. Is that so much to ask?

I'm not sure if the music industry would technically classify any of these songs as singles, but I do remember hearing "Brother for Sale" on the radio. Granted, it was a kid's station, but I was pretty convinced that these girls had a hit record on their hands.

The Adventures of Mary Kate and Ashley

Sometime around this era I distinctly remember receiving my Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen Fan Club Starter Kit in the mail, which was essentially a brochure for all of the overpriced things I could ever imagine begging for. Following Full House's cancellation, Dualstar expanded their straight-to-video enterprise with a series of MK&A adventure movies.

In these videos, the girls played kid detectives fully decked out in 40s-style detective gear. Everyone knows that's how real detectives go undetected: by dressing the part. By this point, the girls were pretty much unstoppable. The plots and acting were almost entirely inconsequential. It was shameless brand-building and we ate up every minute of it.

You're Invited....

The idea that Ashley and Mary Kate would even consider inviting me (me!) to their costume/dance/sleepover party was almost too exciting to bear. Okay, so everyone who could convince their parents to shell out the twenty bucks for the video was on the guest list too as far as Dualstar was concerned, but still.

It Takes Two

The Olsens made the leap to the big screen with 1995's It Takes Two. It was sort of a Parent Trap rip-off with a less substantiated premise, but it was a huge hit with kids. This was a simpler time, when Kirstie Alley was still of Hollywood proportions to play the female romantic lead and Steve Guttenberg was a household name. I was, per usual, surprised to learn that the movie holds a remarkably putrid 9% fresh rating on For those of you slow on the math front that's 91% rotten. Yikes. As a kid, I was pretty certain this film was a masterpiece and was thus shocked at the Academy's blatant omission of the movie in its nominations. For shame.

Two of a Kind

You know what's a really good idea? Naming the main characters in the show after the actors but mysteriously changing their last name. Now that's good writing. The short-lived Two of a Kind premiered on TGIF in 1998, featuring Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen as Mary Kate and Ashley Burke. See? Brilliant. The show's ratings were a serious disappointment, leading to its cancellation after one season. Remarkably, though, during that time they managed to release 39 (!) book adaptations of the show. That's just impressive.

Billboard Dad/Switching Goals/Passport to Paris/Our List are Sealed/There Aren't Enough Front Slashes in the World to Complete this Insanely Extensive List of Straight-to-Video Movies

Ashley and Mary Kate cemented their status as tween icons with their incredibly successful straight-to-video offerings. They always played a different set of twins, but each set seemed to suffer from Wakefield syndrome: that is to say, one was a Jessica and the other an Elizabeth. I guess it's pretty much inevitable. I mean, how could there be any twins out there with something in common? No, polar opposites are really the only available permutation.

While Mary Kate and Ashley have moved on to pursue separate and more grown-up ventures, their empire remains intact. Dualstar even represented those twins from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody for awhile, proving that the company has some strangely sustainable twin business out there. The Olsens may not be the squeaky-clean tween idols of days past, but many of their fans remain fiercely loyal. These girls were workhorses from ages 0-18, so it's pretty fair to let them off the hook now with full-time gigs as essentially mannequins for enormous sunglasses and tattered scarves. They've earned it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

90s Swing Music Revival

It's truly a sight to behold when the mainstream kids manage to wrangle something cool and underground from those pesky elitist hipsters. Those young people associated with esoteric trends and super-secret clandestine interests are always up there on their high horses, explaining that yes, they knew about it before it was cool. Those of us in general mainstream society don't have to apologize when we succeed in wrestling something fun from the white-fingered death grip of our too-cool neighbors. If anything, we should classify it as a rousing victory.

Such was the case with the swing revival of the late 90s. Swing enthusiasts abounded in hipster culture long before it made its way into the conventional current and they'll never let us forget it. We all know it's the job of the dominant popular culture to take whatever is up and coming on the cool front, toss it around a room of middle-aged white guys in suits for a few hours, and present us a repackaged profit-driven consumer-hungry version of it. For the non-hipsters among us, we were more than happy to jump on the bandwagon. If we could manage to Lindy Hop on, well, then all the better.

There were many forces at play pushing the swing revival to the forefront of pop culture, but luckily for you I'm neither motivated nor educated enough to care to describe them in accurate detail. Instead, please enjoy this watered-down version of the events complete with video accompaniment.

The mainstream revitalization of swing tied in with period movies showcasing upbeat and fast-paced swing numbers. I guess plain ol' non-hipster America wasn't quite ready for an onslaught of modernized swing-dancing lifestyle cues, so we settled for seeing some peppy song-and-dance numbers in films set in the past where swing belonged. In A League of their Own, the girls go out for a night on the town and show off their incredibly well-choreographed and dubiously spontaneous moves.

A League of their Own (1992)

A year later, Swing Kids unleashed the goods on the underground swing music and dance way of life. Okay, so the film was set in World War II-era Germany, but we still were able to translate their off-the-beaten path experience to our own lives. At the very least it's nearly impossible to watch this movie without having some flicker of desire to learn the Lindy Hop. It's pretty much inevitable.

Swing Kids (1993)

Swing in mainstream media quickly progressed from showcasing the dance moves of the past to incorporating them into movies set in the present day. Admittedly some of these movies featured Jim Carrey with a pliable green face and a yellow zoot suit and were thus perhaps not particularly grounded in reality, but they did feature some fun swing scenes.

Royal Crown Revue in The Mask (1994)

Subtlety waning, Miramax released the aptly titled Swingers in 1996. I haven't seen Couples Retreat but based on hearsay I'm going to go out on a limb and say Vince Vaughn and John Favreau have downslid pretty damn far since their Swingers days. In Vaughn's case, it appears he may have slid directly into a vat of cheeseburgers and milkshakes. Regardless, my love for these too was generally unshakable since Vince Vaughn coined "Vegas, Baby!" In a particularly memorable scene, Favreau and Heather Graham swing dance their way through a hole-in-the-wall club. Maxim named this one of the ten most uncomfortable movie dance scenes ever, but I beg to differ.

The Cherry-Poppin' Daddies in Swingers (1996):

Many of these musicians' records hit the top of the charts by the late 90s, with audiences feeling the revival of the big band vibe. The Brian Setzer Orchestra enjoyed a heyday of popularity at this time with their cover of Louis Prima's "Jump, Jive, and Wail", giving us a music video that made us all want to sign up for swing dance classes. The combination of the retro feel and more modern arrangement lent a unique sense of timelessness to the track. It really is an incredibly catchy tune.

The Brian Setzer Orchestra

It didn't hurt that the then-current Gap khaki campaign chose "Jump, Jive, and Wail" to feature in their "Khaki Swings" ad. If we didn't think something was mainstream already, we had the Gap to come and shove it in our faces. Watching these attractive multicultural young people was among the straws that broke the proverbial camel's back in the transformation of swing from an underground movement to widely accessible phenomenon. If you could swing in khakis, it's safe to say it wasn't really all that hipster anymore.

Gap Commercial "Jump, Jive, and Wail"

For the full post on 90s Gap commercials, click here

In 1999, swing made yet another appearance in the movies in Blast from the Past. Fraser's character had grown up virtually suspended in time in a fallout shelter, so obviously he's incredibly adept at swing dancing. That's what we do in fallout shelters, people. Study the art of dance. Everyone knows that.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in Blast from the Past (1999):

Shall We Dance? - Funny home videos are a click away

Though the trend sustained itself a couple of years into the new millennium, it then faded away just as quickly as it had arrived. Unfortunately for the rest of us, that means we've got to move onto the next hipster genre to steal. What do you think? Should we go with ironic mustaches or inserting the word "postmodern" casually into everyday conversation? It's your call.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Saved by the Bell

If we've learned anything from being raised by TV, it should be that continuity errors are a basic part of life. Whenever a location, plot point, or character gets tiresome, simply replace them without explanation or any nod to their past existence. Whether or not these things actually happened is unimportant. The important thing is to never mention them. Ever.

Saved by the Bell was famous for its arrant disregard for continuity, changing settings and weaving in new characters whenever convenient. They simply made them disappear, never to be mentioned again. Bored with your show's bland suburban Indianapolis backdrop? Move to Palisades! Tired of your show's major characters? Replace them with newer, more attractive actors! Two cast members want to leave the show before it runs its course? Replace them and later reintegrate them, never mentioning either their absence or the new best friend you briefly had during their leave. It's pretty much a perfect system.

While other shows may have prided themselves on meticulous attention to detail, Saved by the Bell got away with changing the rules over and over again. It didn't seem to matter much to its frenetic young fan base. For one, the show was marketed toward children, allowing producers to operate under the assumption that kids don't notice when their beloved favorite character is mysteriously sliced out of the picture. More importantly, though, the show was a fantasy. It wasn't meant to be reality. It was meant to entertain and allegedly educate on the importance of partaking in good clean fun, and those aims took precedence over any semblance of sense.

The original incarnation Good Morning Miss Bliss premiered in 1988. Watching this horribly cheesy introduction, it's amazing this even got picked up for one season. The opening is seemingly more focused on the adult characters than our lovable middle school miscreants, and that music is truly terrible in a late 80s slow melodic jams sort of way. It had potential, sure, but it didn't exactly seem poised for great success.

It's also entirely possible there were just too many quirky curly-haired players in the original; we wanted to see some beautiful people, dammit.

So what's a network to do? If your response is to completely change the premise, back stories, location, and characters, then congratulations. You're on your way up on the ruthless cheap-ploy television executive track. Kudos to you. You'll receive your certificate of achievement in 3-5 business days.

NBC repackaged the original show into a new Saturday morning series they called Saved by the Bell. They brought in Tiffani Amber Theissen, Elizabeth Berkley, and Mario Lopez to round out their all-American crew, switched the setting to Palisades, California, and pretended that most of them had been friends since birth.

The show became wildly popular, quickly developing a substantial young following. It didn't seem to matter that critics tore the show apart. Entertainment Weekly described it as "featur[ing] stiff acting, cheap sets, and plots that seem lifted from Happy Days reruns." It didn't seem to help that the show was both morally conscious and outstandingly superficial at the same time. Despite the poor critical receptions, kids ate this up. They adored it. They couldn't get enough.

The show also frequently broke the Fourth Wall, with Zach talking directly into the camera and occasionally and inexplicably relying on the power to freeze the surrounding action. It was cheesy, sure, but Zach was admittedly charming. It's tough to find a girl who grew up in the 90s that never had a flicker of a Zach Morris crush. It was pretty much inevitable.

Our show featured an assortment of two-dimensional characters:

Zach Morris (Mark Paul Gosselaar) is an endearing slacker, a twinkling-eyed schemer always seeking to cheat the system. He's a good kid overall, following the TV trope of lovable mischief maker. He gets himself into his fair share of jams, sure, but he never stretches his rule-breaking so far so as to constitute actual trouble-making. Plus, he had that hair. Have you seen that hair? Sigh.

Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) is a gossip queen and shopping addict extraordinaire. She comes from a wealthy family (both her parents are doctors) and is constantly getting herself into shopping related jams in between dodging unwanted advances from Screech.

Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) is a feminist overachiever who is borderline obsessive about her grades. She's somewhat of a do-gooder, but more often she's a prima donna perfectionist with a penchant for caffeine pills. Okay, so that only happened in one episode, but I still see it as major character development. I mean, she was so excited. She was so excited. She was so scared.

Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani-Amber Theissen) Kelly was the All-American good girl, a cheerleader whose good looks win her an outpouring of male attention. She wasn't the smartest girl in the bunch, but she was sweet and we were supposed to feel sorry for her because she was sort of poor.

Albert Clifford "AC" Slater (Mario Lopez) is a tough-talking jock who disparagingly refers to Zach as "Preppy". The two are often rivals but eventually form a solid friendship. Slater is a wrestler and a pretty impressive dancer, though I wouldn't comment on it while he's looking all bad-ass in that bomber jacket. Though Mario Lopez is obviously Mexican, his family is mysteriously not and it's left pretty much unexplained until we get to the college years and they give us some halfhearted explanation for it. Thanks, guys.

Samuel "Screech" Powers (Dustin Diamond) is our well-meaning nerd, a geek who somehow managed to kick it with the cool kids. He has an intense unrequited love for Lisa, feelings that are for obvious reasons not reciprocated. He's generally smart but quirky. It's tough to watch him now and separate Diamond from the tool he's become, but back in the day he used to be pretty endearing.

Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins) was an oddly meddling principal who played a major role in the daily lives of our main characters. He never seemed to interact with any other students because they were all pretty much part of the scenery, so I'll assume he took a special interest in our heroes and focused his entire career on dealing with their antics and encouraging their potential.

The show played stereotypes way over the top, with dumb rocks-for-brains jocks and pocket-protector sporting nerds at every turn. They also threw in a "message" or two for good measure, reminding us that it's not good to drink and drive or that setting up a secret video-dating service using the school's virtual yearbook equipment is wrong. I know I learned a valuable lesson from that last one. I started all my video dating services out in the open, thank you very much.

Chuck Klosterman describes the last season's odd character swap best when he examines what he calls the "Tori Paradox". All of a sudden Kelly and Jessie have disappeared and no one says a word about their absence. Instead, we get the tomboy, leather jacket-wearing Tori character who mysteriously swoops in and immediately becomes a part of the gang. Just as quickly as she'd appeared, she was gone without a trace and Jessie and Kelly were back as if nothing had happened. No one said anything about it, so we were just supposed to assume everything was fine and we shouldn't question it.

There were later more continuity errors to be had when we rejoined part of the gang for Saved by the Bell: The College Years, but that's a post for another time. NBC further milked the franchise by creating a spin-off Saved by the Bell: The New Class. There was no integrity to it, just pure money making. I mean, honestly, I owned Saved by the Bell Zackberry scented shampoo. Zackberry! You try to tell me that's not squeezing the franchise for all it's worth.

Of course, the big news today is of the purported SBtB reunion, reported in People magazine.

Over the summer, Zach--er, excuse me, Mark Paul, appeared in full Zach Morris garb and gave an in-character interview with Jimmy Fallon, complete with giant cell phone and fourth wall breakage:

Of course, don't expect to see Dustin Diamond in any reunion hype. He recently released a tell-all book alleging the gang was not quite as squeaky-clean as their on-air image. I resent that, of course. I'm almost certain they scrubbed diligently with Zackberry-scented toiletry products.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Britney Spears

Oh, what a different a decade can make. Reference Britney Spears ten or so years ago, and you conjured up an image of a teen cultural phenomenon, a gorgeous fresh-faced midriff-baring schoolgirl with a cascade of beautiful golden hair. Reference Britney Spears now, and you're taken to a different place entirely. Images come to mind of an out-of-control out-of-shape washed-up train wreck chowing down on Taco Bell barefoot in a gas station in a bathroom somewhere with an unfortunately bald head. Sure, she's managed to turn herself back around and re-reinvent herself thanks to the help of an incredibly adept mangement team and conservatorship, but the original image has been tarnished as we watched our favorite pop princess spiral into the void.

Funnily enough, whenever Britney Spears tickets go on sale nowadays, I hear squealing teenagers everywhere on the radio begging for tickets. It's as if a new generation has rediscovered our old Britney, and that period of lapsed judgment simply never happened. The Britney these kids know, however, is a very different Britney than the ones we knew. Once upon a time, girls everywhere yearned to be Britney. While you'd be hard-pressed to find a teenybopper today willing to trade places with Brit, in our day it was essentially the dream of every mainstream girl who'd ever stood in front of the mirror lip-synching in her tied-up Catholic school uniform.

Hearken back, if you will, to a time when Britney was just a fresh-faced chipper little brunette thing, bouncing around with Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake on The Mickey Mouse Club. It didn't get any squeakier clean than this. The show had been popular in the 50s and 70s, but a revitalized 1990s version brought new life to the concept. Though she auditioned at 8, Britney landed a role on the show at age 12.

Yes, Britney and Justin, the way we'd like to remember them...together.

Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself. For all the anonymous gossip blog hater commenters claiming Britney to be a talentless shill, we've got to remember that though she may have been famous for her dancing she was first noticed for her singing talent on Star Search at the age of 10.

The stage seemed set for Britney to take off in a major way. In '97 she briefly joined the dead-end girl group Innosense. Get it? no. sense? These 90s music managers sure were clever. Here's Brit and the girls from Innosense, in case you can't remember. This probably was after their stint as musical conspirators, but it's still adorably vintage Brit Brit.

Just a few months after joining Innosense, Britney was signed to Jive Records, the company responsible for misguidedly catapulting manufactured and highly managed groups like *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys to atmospheric fame. Britney was cute, innocent (after all, this was pre "not that innocent" era), and had that all-American personality that endeared people everywhere to her sparkly smile and Southern accent. She was more than poised for fame, though no one could have anticipated what happened next. I do imagine her managers were pretty pleased with it, however.

In 1998, she released "Baby One More Time", becoming the first ever single released by an unknown new artist to hit number one. The video was late-90s pop at its finest, cementing a Britney Spears brand based on tongue-in-cheek naivete and latent sexuality. In it, Brittany donned pigtails, a tied-up oxford shirt, and a borderline indecent plaid schoolgirl skirt, giving dirty-minded old men everywhere a troublesome jailbait Lolita fetish and forcing Catholic schools everywhere to invest in additional security. I'm also not too proud to admit I coveted those feather pigtail ornaments with a near-religious fervor, buying what essentially amounted to a Britney Spears starter kit at Target and dutifully lacing them through my pigtails at all available opportunities. And that scene where she's got the pink sports bra, the white pants, and the half-pigtails? I yearned to replicate this look more than anything, much to the chagrin of my midriff-abhorring parents.

Britney became something of an overnight sensation, with her fluffy bubble-gum pop hits blaring from middle schooler's discmans (discmen?) across the world. Coupled with a racy Rolling Stone cover shoot, Britney Spears had solidified her semi-contradictory role as virginal teen queen and forbiddenly sexual temptress.

This image was further compounded by the fact that Britney jumped aboard the current pop sensation trend train in declaring herself a virgin, a puzzling statement in the wake of her suspiciously physical and potentially cohabitational relationship with childhood pal Justin Timberlake. Now the idea of their public declaration seems utterly laughable, but at the time it probably seemed like a fairly smart publicity move for their ever-more famous starlet. I suppose it is possible they weren't having sex. They did, after all, show up to an event wearing this grotesque denim-on-denim-on-denim set of matching ensembles. I imagine it was some form of fashion-driven sexual behavior deterrent. It's really the only explanation.

In 1999, Brit's follow up single "(You) Drive Me Crazy" was another successful record, though not on the scales of her debut "Baby One More Time." The song was featured on the Melissa Joan Hart/Adrian Grenier teen movie vehicle Drive Me Crazy.

Britney even did a crossover promotional appearance on Hart's sitcom, Sabrina the Teenage Witch. It was, well, magical.

She was nothing short of a rapid-fire hit-making machine, a year later releasing "Oops I Did It Again", a red-jumpsuited, hair-extensioned cheesefest complete with a spoken interlude chock-full of Titanic references. You just can't make this stuff up. No matter the low level of substance, it didn't deter girls everywhere from yearning to learn these dance moves.

Back in the day, Brit wasn't above poking fun at herself. Observe in this 2000 intro to her hosting gig on Saturday Night Live as she makes fun of rumors surrounding speculations over a purported boob job.

Of course, she couldn't keep up her good-girl image forever. Itching to break out of her schoolgirl shell, Britney pushed the limits with a slightly edgier image in her next album. She cemented this move with a sexy MTV Music Video Awards performance featuring dancing nearly-naked with a boa constructor. Nothing says "I'm not a girl, not yet a woman" like dancing with reptilian life.

Itching to get into film, Brit gave us a cameo in Austin Powers in Goldmember:

Followed by a slightly tragic foray into acting with her supposed movie star-making vehicle, Crossroads. Really, I don't care how big a Brit Brit fan you are. It's totally painful.

Holy crap! That is totally Justin Long, about to have sex with Brit's character Lucy n the trailer. I will hold back the mocking, though, I met him once at a craps table in Vegas and he was totally nice even though we were totally drunk. From what I remember, that is. Hence, I'm going to let it go, Justin. Just this once.

Britney stayed famous as ever, but things took a turn as she ached to break the shackles from her tightly managed life. She rebelled, dating and then marrying and then divorcing Kevin Federline, though not before popping out a few wee ones. We all know what happened next, though I'd prefer to gloss over that part. That's neither the Brit I thought I knew nor loved, and I'd prefer to just watch it on E!'s "Britney: Fall From Grace" than recount it myself.

Luckily, she's made a major comeback, though she remains a bit tarnished in reputation from her various past exploits. An MTV documentary can only reinstate you so far. Regardless, her new album is possibly her most successful since her debut, and it's likely she's more famous than ever. Love her or hate her, you've got at least admire her team's well orchestrated comeback:

Is it embarrassing to admit that as I type this, I have that bottle on my desk next to me of that Curious perfume with the atomizer she uses at the beginning of the video? C'mon don't judge. Just think of it as a crossover tie-in promotional item.

Friday, October 2, 2009

America's Funniest Home Videos

I don't know about you, but I consider myself to have a sophisticated sense of humor. A refined sharp ear for only the cleverest of jokes. A real discerning ability to enjoy the most elite brand of drollery.

But I still think it's funny to see a guy get hit in the nuts with a baseball.

What can I say? It's somewhere in our human nature to find others' unanticipated moments of undeserved physical pain to be wildly funny. Some of us may try to hide our amusement at such juvenile antics, but when it comes down to it it's these little incidences of comical injury that really tie us together in this human tapestry of life. Or something like that.

Plus, when they punctuate it with some sort of farcical "boing!" or "splat!" sound effect, it definitely hits home. Well actually, it misses home and his that guy at third base squarely in the swimsuit area, but that's really not the point. The point is that it makes us laugh, regardless of whether or not that guy can someday be the father of future children.

From its roots as a primitive one-hour special in 1989, the original version was hosted by Full House's Bob Saget. Sure, the material and inter-video skits were incredibly cheesy, but they were usually pretty funny, too. We had our catchy 90s theme song followed by a short Bob Saget monologue and then all the sidesplitting videos we could take. Complete with narration and Saget's funny voices, no less. Childish? Yes. Were we children? Yes. A perfect fit.

Aside from the video debauchery there were also a number of running scripted gags of the incredibly cheesy, family-friendly variety. For any of you remotely familiar with Bob Saget's personal stand-up material, it's safe to say this is in an entirely different realm of content. There was a running bit in which an off-screen and thus unseen producer would hand things to Bob as if like magic, and he'd make marginally humorous comments to him like, "Glad to see that rash is clearing up." And that was the good stuff.

Despite the corniness of it all, the show was very entertaining and became a runaway hit. It didn't hurt that there were exorbitantly excessive cash prizes offered to winners as well. Weekly winners were awarded a whopping $10,000 and were granted entrance to the $100,000 contest at the end of the season. All in all, not a bad deal for catching your cat walking on his hindlegs with a cardboard box on his head.

While the content of the videos varied, they could typically be broken down into some neatly defined categories:

The Babies

Children can be amusing, I'll give you that. Never mind that it's borderline exploitative to videotape your kids doing something funny in an effort to score some cold hard cash, people were rushing for their camcorders at every hiccup. Nowadays YouTube is flooded with this stuff, but in the earlier days of video recording it was more of a contained practice. Nothing quite like profiting from your child's embarrassing behavior. Just remember to hide the DVD release evidence now that the kids are grown--I can't imagine they'd be too pleased about their incredibly public bathtime vid.

The Disruption of a Major Life Event

Yes, it can be pretty funny when a major life event (wedding, bar mitzvah, baptism, graduation) goes awry, but I can't imagine those people whose $1000 wedding cake was toppled over by a renegade cyclist feel the same way. Unless they won the $10,000 prize off of it. Then I'm sure they're more than willing to let things go.

The Animals

Animals do the darndest things. Mind you, this was ages before Lolcatz and Cute Overload and all that (animal-themed) jazz. At the very least these people had something to show for being chased by an ornery, human-hungry ostrich. Besides the resultant scars and emotional trauma, I mean.

The Injury Ward

Also known as "Guy Gets Hit in Nuts With Baseball Bat", injuries were pretty common AFV fare. Laugh at others' misfortune? Don't mind if I do.

The Prank (aka the Set-Up)

Speaking of cheap tricks, The Set-Up was probably the cheapest. Once word got out you could make a cool ten grand for a funny video, people everywhere began manufacturing their own humorous situations. If it seemed a little like unfair play, that's only because it was. Sure, it may have made us chuckle to see them scare the pants off of grandma with some remote control toy, but it just wasn't the same as if they'd earned their candid moment like everyone else.

The departure of Bob Saget of course did not mark the end of the show. Later incarnations starred John Fugelsang and Daisy Fuentes (1998-2001) and Tom Bergeron (2001-present) of Dancing with the Stars fame. Somehow, though, it just isn't quite the same. Maybe we're older. Maybe we're wiser. Or maybe, just maybe, our loyalty Bob Saget's clean fun-for-the-whole-family humor just won't allow us to be won over by some sub par replacement host.

Then again, maybe it's all those viral videos out there. Tough to say.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tickle-Me Elmo

"I was pulled under, trampled—the crotch was yanked out of my brand-new jeans [. . .] I was kicked with a white Adidas before I became unconscious."

Sounds pretty scary right? So what was it? Soccer hooligan riot? Controversial political protest gone awry? Student demonstration gone violent?

Or, a race for $28.99 worth of pulsating synthetic fur?

If you answered D, then congratulations. You're a witness to the soulless materialism of sheeplike 90s suburban parents. Yes, that right. Innocent unsuspecting shop clerks were trampled and concussed all for the unworthy cause of an overpriced, overrated toy. Something tells me that guy wasn't laughing nearly as much as these toys. Or TYCO, for that matter. I'm sure we can all imagine that journey to the bank involved a lot of uncontrollable giggling. And I mean all the way there.

Though I was a bit too old (and let's be real here, too cool) to have any remote desire for a Sesame Street themed toy in 1996, I was perplexed and amazed by the impact this single plaything had on our fair nation. Every couple of years or so, a toy comes on to the market that takes off in an unanticipated and astronomical way. While usually the trajectory of a toy's success is pretty stable, every once in a while one comes along that becomes an absolute hands-down no-two-ways-about-it must have item. As in we've got people trading black market kidneys for these things.

It also seems that once this path of toy-crazed destruction begins, it can not be stopped. No rational intervention of any kind seems enough to quell the unquenchable desire to one-up our neighbors. It became about the principle of the thing--or in this case, the lack thereof. People went completely insane, manic under the spell of owning the most coveted holiday item of the year. Congratulations, you Jiminy Cricket-less bastards.

The best part of the whole shebang was the Sophacles-level of irony hiding just beneath the surface. Elmo, as a character, was the ultimate prototype for sweet, kind, good-natured innocence. Never in a million years would he engage in any type of violence--he was a monster in name and bodily fluffiness alone. These were values people wanted to pass down to their kids. So much so, in fact, that they were willing to completely disregard these same values in their unbridled bloodlust for these toys. Smooth move, parents.

I'm sure if my parents had trampled some poor shmoe down at Toys 'R Us without so much asking after his broken bones and resultant disfigurement, I'd be pretty pleased. After all, I'd have Elmo as my moral guide. That pretty much makes up for it, right?

Too bad our Tickle-Me pal didn't offer much in the way of substance, or even any type of real underlying value. Take a look at the toy in question in its natural habitat in its depiction in the original 1996 ad:

What? Really? We're trampling people for that? That thing sort It's not really exceptional in any way. I mean, yeah, it shakes. Great. It laughs in a horribly irritating high-pitched tone. Remind me again why we all want one of these?

Oh, right. Because we're slaves to a competition-driven consumer society. I'd almost forgotten. I suppose if you really get down to it, the vibration was marginally high-tech for the time. It used similar technology to the type of feedback you get now on your Wii when you run over a penguin in Mario Kart*. It was kind of cute in a "I see this thing every day on TV but don't really need one in my own home" sort of way. It didn't seem to have all that much going for it substance-wise outside of the ample hype.

Keep in mind this was not the only Elmo doll on the market. There were dozens of others that for some reason or other had failed to become the almighty chosen one for the holiday season. That vibrating censor and voice chip was just the tipping point to drive this toy to phenomenon status. People who'd been lucky enough to buy one before the craze took over everything and everyone made out pretty nicely overall on the deal. These toys were selling in unofficial markets for upwards of $1000. I'm sorry, if you missed that, that sum was $1000. Given, this was the 90s and the economic climate was a bit less dire, but geez. No wonder people hate America. I blame Tickle-Me Elmo.**

Just like any craze, the hysteria subsided almost as quickly as it had crested. TYCO tried to quickly cash in on the brand by offering up a whole line of Tickle-Me Sesame Street friends, but it seems everyone had had just about as much tickling as they could take. It was time to lay the concept to rest, especially if we ever wanted our late-night talk show hosts to joke about anything else.

This was not, however, the last we saw of Tickle Me Elmo. In 2006, the 10th anniversary of the original release, Fisher Price unleashed TMX limited edition Tickle Me Elmo Extreme. Yep, extreme.

Okay, that one was too creepy, even for me? What's with the Cheaters/Cops-grade blurring? What exactly are they hiding? Let's try that one more time:

Nope, I was right the first time. Still creepy.

*What? I'm really bad at Mario Kart.
**Remember, if you don't buy a Tickle-Me Elmo, the terrorists win.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Macarena

Image via

Fourteen weeks. Fourteen weeks. That's how long the Macarena held the top spot on the Billboard music charts. Fourteen weeks. That's three and a half months of non-stop Latin-beat line dancing. Not only was the song number one, it was everywhere. I
t was like an airborne contagion, only with a whole lot more butt-shaking. Weddings, bar mitzvahs, middle school dances; you name the venue, people were out there Macarena-ing their hearts out. They didn't care what the words were or where it came from. Most of them were just grateful to have pre-choreographed moves.

As far as dance crazes go, the Macarena verged on phenomenon status
. It swept through the country and the world, though no one seems to know just how it got so popular or how everyone learned the dance. In an age before everyone had high-speed internet, every person between the ages of 5 and 95 seemed to have the Macarena down pat. Never mind that nowadays people have to watch step-by-step how-to videos on how to do the Soulja Boy dance on YouTube at least ten times before getting it down pat. Back in the 90s, dance trends may have been infectious, but they didn't spread virally.

Most of us can't pinpoint exactly when or where or how we learned it, we just all miraculously knew the appropriate times to jump a 180 degree turn counterclockwise in unison. There was something strangely hypnotizing about its repetitiveness. We know longer had to fear the dance floor, wondering when the appropriate moment was to switch from the shopping cart to the lawn mower. We just simply did the exact same routine over and over and over again. It was a relatively foolproof system, though limited skill dancers admittedly may have struggled a bit awkwardly with the pelvic swivels.

It all started way back in 1992 when Los del Rio unleashed their insanely catchy song onto a crowd of unsuspecting VIP Venezuelans. Though the song went through all sorts of tweaks and changes before turning into the dance craze we recognize today, it was that tiny spark of interest that launched a million hip swivels. The original was of course in full Spanish, with, well, interesting lyrics to say the least. That is, the lyrics were completely strange. Just totally, utterly, derangedly odd.

The original Spanish version went a little something like this. Okay, okay, exactly like this:

For those of you out there who do not speak Spanish (myself included), fear not. With the help of the trusty (well, kind of trusty) interwebs, I have tracked down what I can only assume to be an accurate translation. Correct me if I'm wrong, but here goes:

Give your body pleasure, Macarena
Because your body is for giving it pleasure and good things
Give your body pleasure, Macarena
Ehhhh, Macarena
Macarena has a boyfriend whose name is
Whose last name is Vitorino

And during his military swearing in
She got together with two of his friends
Macarena, Macarena, Macarena
Who likes the summers of Marbella
Macarena, Macarena, Macarena
Who likes the guerrilla lifestyle

Macarena dreams of the Corte Ingles (High-class dept. store)
And she likes the most recent fashions
She'd like to live in New York
And trap a new boyfriend

Stop right there. I mean, hold the phone. They might as well be describing me. I love the guerrilla lifestyle. I just adore it. And don't even get me started on the most recent fashions. No wonder we liked the song so much; even if we didn't understand the words, we may have just subconsciously been drawn to such a relatable character as this Macarena chick.

Needless to say, ethnocentric English-speakers required a wate
red-down version for our own understanding pleasure, so they came up with the following:

Now that is what I am talking about. That was most definitely the version I had blaring from my 90s-era Sony boom box. In case you didn't catch it, it goes a li
ttle something like this:

When I dance they call me Macarena
And the boys, they say que soy buena

They all want me, they can't have me
So they come and dance beside me
Move with me, chant with me
And if you're good, I'll take you home with me.

Yeah, that's it. Let's chant together. Oh, that is hot. Are you into Gregorian?

Now don't you worry about my boyfriend
The boy whose name is Vitorino
I don't want him, couldn't stand him
He was no good, so I...ha,ha,ha,ha,ha

Now come on, what was I supposed to do?
He was out of town and his two friends were soooooo fine.

Hey, what happened to Vitorino's military swearing-in ceremony? We couldn't fit that one there, eh?

Come and find me, my name is Macarena
Always at the the party con las chicas que soy buena

Come join me, dance with me
And you fellows chant along with me.

Move with me, chant with me

And if you're good, I'll take you home with me.

Okay, so this version is lacking a bit in the high-end department store/guerrilla warfare categories, but I think you get the general idea.

This handy diagram is great for practicing for 90s theme parties.

Anyway, just try to tell me that the dancers in the remix video are not the prototypical 90s girls. The hairstyles. The clothing. The multiculturalism. The mutliculturalism part is key, too. Because you know what the Macarena does? That's right, it brings cultures together. Forget complicated treaties and trade embargoes, just give us the Macarena and we'll be dancing together in no time. We're not really so different, all of us. We all do the Macarena one arm at a time.

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